An insider's guide to the All-Star circus
THIS column is in confessional mode today. Forgive me if I waver in my admission, for this isn't easy ... it has taken many long, harrowing months to reach this cathartic watershed.
However, I've got to think of others now - family, friends, all those perfectly respectable candidates wilfully ignored over the past decade ... here goes. Curve Ball is an All Stars football selector.
Feel better already? Eh, not really. You're still going to blame me for including Peter 'Super Sub' Canavan in 2005. Or the glaring absence of any Cork forward in 2010. Or those myriad positional manoeuvres, brazenly aimed at the avoidance of hard choices.
Now, I could cite "cabinet confidentiality" in refusing to answer your thunderous accusations. Better still, repeat the "sworn to secrecy" defence while - nod, wink - blaming Seosamh O Bloggs from the Daily Bugle for the latest debacle. Or I could try the Pistorius defence - I am guilty only of shooting wildly in the dark, and didn't mean anyone to get hurt.
But no, I must 'fess up' and face my punishment ... but please, please, please don't sentence me to the International Rules. I'll even plea-bargain; fancy knowing how gangsters like me end up as an All Star selector?
STEP 1: Every year, whip up a media storm over the latest "All Star outrage". Question the bona fides of the selectors. Scream blue murder over the scandalous omission of five named shoo-ins.
STEP 2: Never, ever, identify the quintet who should have been omitted for your Famous Five. The last thing you need, right now, is to make avoidable enemies.
STEP 3: Pen a philosophical article on the unfairness of a system that displays blatant bias towards the big counties and places unwarranted emphasis on the business end of the All-Ireland race.
STEP 4: Expand on Step 3 to curry favour with the minnows. "Why are the small fish always ignored?" you should ask. "Why don't the judges take cognisance of league form? More to the point, how can they overlook what happens in the FBD League, or the O'Byrne, McGrath and McKenna Cups? And why, pray tell, should September count for more than the O Fiaich and Fitzsimons Cups?"
STEP 5: Almost there. The organisers are now under such pressure from the revolting grassroots (no, the Che Guevara type, stupid!) that they will feel compelled to add your maverick voice. Here's the key: don't say yes too quickly before eventually accepting their invite "on behalf of all weaker counties; as a dissenting voice for the silent majority."
STEP 6: In year one, make a few left field suggestions that the Carlow corner-back and Leitrim's third midfielder are worthy of a nomination "at the very least." Laugh nervously with your selectors when they guffaw.
STEP 7: In year two, make yourself cosy. Time to start voting for all your favourite Kerry footballers and Kilkenny hurlers. Or should that be Kilkenny footballers?